Speed Trumps Size For LB Young

Perry Young does not have the size of a prototypical linebacker.

Perry Young vs temple

“I am 5’10½” – 5’11” on a good day – and I weigh 210,” Perry told me with a laugh. “I base my whole game on being fast and physical and finding the ball. Most of the time that makes up for my height and weight.”

Young is sufficiently athletic that if he were a few inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier, I suspect that the sophomore from Birmingham, AL might be playing for Alabama or Auburn instead of Cincinnati.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said Young. “God didn’t make me 240 pounds and a little taller for some reason and I feel like I followed the right path. I really love it here and I’m just thankful that I’m here.”

The Bearcats’ new coaching staff is happy to have him. Despite receiving limited playing time as a freshman, Young tied for eighth on the team in tackles last season and he’s been working with the first unit at outside linebacker during spring practice.

“If you’re not physical you can’t play linebacker,” said defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. “I don’t care how big he is, he’s physical enough and athletic enough to play the linebacker position at a high level.”

Young was recruited as a defensive back, but quickly changed positions.

“I came in as a nickel or safety, but as time went by they saw that I was a pretty physical kid,” said Young. “When I was matched up with wideouts I used to beat them up first and cover later. So they said, ‘Hey, do you want to try linebacker out?’ I’ve been playing it ever since and I really enjoy it.”

Under the previous coaching staff the Bearcats’ base defense was a 4-2-5 alignment where the fifth defensive back was a hybrid safety/linebacker. But that is not how Young is expected to be used in 2017.

“In our defense we consider him an outside linebacker,” said Freeman. “I know that there are different terms, but it’s all about what you’re asking that guy to do. In our defense we’re asking him to do a lot. It’s a specific type of player to play that SAM linebacker position, but we consider him a linebacker.”

Young is learning the nuances of the position from Freeman who was a second team All-Big Ten linebacker at Ohio State in 2008 and a fifth-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears.

“It’s a difficult position at first, but Coach Freeman is taking the time to coach me and all of the other SAM linebackers,” said Young. “Our defense is based on it being a physical and simple game. They’re doing a good job of coaching it because it’s coming natural to us.

“Coach Freeman is a really high-tempo guy. He’s young and he knows how to relate to the players. I feel like I can always go to him when I have a problem. I feel really comfortable around him and I feel like he always wants to talk to us. I think he’s a really great guy and I’m looking to him being my coach for the next few years.”

Freeman won’t have to worry about Young giving maximum effort.

“Perry is a guy that no matter whether he is right or wrong, he’s just going,” said Freeman. “That’s what we preach around here – effort and attitude. He’s a guy that gives 100% effort every time that he’s on the field.”

When I spoke with Young after a recent practice, it appeared that he didn’t want to leave the field.

“I love being out here, love the contact, and love the high energy,” he said. “Yeah we’re going to get tired, but if you love it, you really just want to go hard for yourself and all of your brothers out here. There’s never a moment where I’m not smiling or dancing around when I’m out there.

“I’m actually sad that practice is over.”

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Cogswell Hopes For Expanded Role In 2017

When Luke Fickell hired Mike Denbrock to be his offense coordinator at Cincinnati, UC tight end Tyler Cogswell immediately went to Google to learn more about the former Notre Dame assistant coach.

“That was the first thing I did,” said Cogswell. “I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I had no idea he had been the tight ends coach. I saw that and it was an eye-popper.’

Especially after seeing that Denbrock had coached four NFL tight ends at Notre Dame including Pro Bowlers Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph.

“It’s awesome having a guy that taught and produced tight ends like that,” said Cogswell. “Knowing how much productivity they had at the college level was awesome to see.

“With his knowledge and experience with all of the tight ends that he produced at Notre Dame and with (UC tight ends coach Doug) Phillips teaching us and having them combined – it’s really been fun. I’ve already learned so much. I’ve been able to watch film of so many guys that Coach Denbrock has produced. It’s fun hearing his insight on how to get better every day.”

Denbrock had a wide variety of assignments during his two stints (2002-04 and 2010-16) at Notre Dame. In addition to coaching tight ends, he served as offensive coordinator in 2014 and also coached offensive tackles and wide receivers during his tenure with the Fighting Irish.

A constant during much of his time in South Bend was extensive use of the tight end in the passing game. Should we expect to see that at Cincinnati now that he’s calling the plays?

“We would be excited to have that be a big piece of what we do,” said Denbrock. “That’s kind of what we’re doing out here. We’re determining as we go through spring football some of the pecking order if you will of who is going to earn the chance to touch the football and how we’re going to direct our offense as we move forward.

“We can play with five wide receivers on the field and we can play with three tight ends on the field. It’s just a matter of what gives us the best opportunity to win and that’s kind of what spring ball is about. We’re trying to figure out some of those answers as we go.”

During Cincinnati’s first seven spring practices, Cogswell has been a frequent target in passing drills.

“Tyler has done a fantastic job,” said Denbrock. “I guess I’ve been a little pleasantly surprised by his ability to run and catch the ball. If you watched the last couple of years you obviously didn’t see a lot of the tight end in the passing game. As much as I like to use them, his ability to get down the field and do some things catching the football has been nice to see.”

“We’re getting more opportunities at the tight end position,” said Cogswell. “All of us have caught a lot of balls this spring and I think we’re making the most of it right now. If we can be consistent and keep showing that we can do this on a daily basis, I think it would be big for the team.”

Last year, Cogswell finished with just two catches for 42 yards but he did provide perhaps the biggest offensive highlight of the season. In the final game of the year against Tulsa, the former high school quarterback caught a backward pass from Hayden Moore and then tossed it back across the field to the UC quarterback who ran untouched 29 yards for a touchdown.

But Cogswell’s role in the trick play was overshadowed by the offensive line as all five members intentionally fell to the ground on the first pass before jumping to their feet and providing a clear path for Moore to run into the end zone.

“That was Thanksgiving week so we called the play ‘Turkey,’” said Cogswell. “We practiced it all week and I had no idea that the lineman fell down until we saw it in the game. In practice I was focusing on catching it and throwing it and I didn’t see the lineman fall. The lineman kind of took away from my touchdown a little bit. Everyone was talking about the lineman and I thought I threw a crisp, 45-yard ball across the field. That was fun.”

The senior might not get another opportunity to throw a touchdown pass, but it appears likely that he’ll play a significant role in the Bearcats offense in 2017.

“I love him as an in-line blocker and that’s going to be a great asset to what we do,” said Denbrock. “And we’ve done some things with moving him around in formations and he’s a smart guy and can pick things up very well. It’s exciting what he’s bringing to the table.”

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Kiel Pursues NFL Dream

It was 32 degrees with a wind chill in the 20’s when a visibly-slimmer Gunner Kiel ran the 40-yard dash for NFL scouts on Wednesday.

Shirtless.

Gunner running 40

Was the former UC quarterback showing off his cold weather toughness or his six-pack abs?

“A little bit of both,” Gunner told me with a laugh.

Kiel was one of 20 former Bearcats who took part in UC’s Pro Timing Day at the Sheakley Athletics Center. Since the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis was held one week later than in previous years, Cincinnati’s Pro Day was pushed back and took place after the practice bubble had been taken down.

Gunner admits that he was initially concerned when he learned that the workout would take place outdoors.

“I felt a lot better when I talked to my quarterback coach and he said, ‘That’s awesome.’” said Kiel. “He said, ‘If it rains, if it snows, if it’s windy, if there’s a blizzard, you can showcase that you can throw in any type of weather.’ I’ve always prided myself that I feel I can throw the ball pretty well in the rain, or when it snows, or in the cold. I’ve played in those conditions all of my life.”

But a cold weather workout is not the biggest challenge that Kiel faces as he tries to earn an opportunity from an NFL team.

Gunner vs ECU

After bursting on the scene by throwing an FBS-record six touchdown passes in his first start, Kiel’s college career was a roller-coaster ride that rivaled anything at King’s Island. The highs included tying the single-season school record with 31 touchdown passes as a sophomore and going 15-for-15 with 5 TD passes as a junior vs. UCF. The lows included missing the 2015 Hawaii Bowl for personal reasons and spending much of his senior year backing up Hayden Moore and Ross Trail.

Gunner knows that NFL teams have questions.

“It goes back to the bowl game situation, the recruiting process a long time ago, and stuff like that,” he said. “I have a very interesting story. I’ve overcome a lot of adversity, and I’ve been through a lot of stuff that most 23 year olds probably haven’t been through. I think I’ve built a lot of character and when I tell these scouts what happened, it just shows the character that I have and the respect I gained from my teammates, my coaching staff, and all of the people from Cincinnati.”

Gunner showed enough potential at Cincinnati to be one of six quarterbacks invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game in January. Kiel completed 4 of 7 passes for 57 yards and directed the only touchdown drive by either team in the West’s 10-3 win.

Gunner East West Shrine

“It was very unexpected to be honest,” said Kiel. “I had an invite to the (less prestigious) College Gridiron Game, and I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to play in the East-West Shrine Game. I tried to do whatever I could to talk to scouts and get my name out there. I didn’t play much in the 2016 season, so to play in an All-Star game was huge for me. It was a tremendous honor and I gained a lot from that game.”

In preparation for workouts with NFL teams, Kiel has been trying to improve his mechanics with quarterbacks coach Travis Brown who conducted the passing drills on Wednesday.

“Mainly my feet,” said Kiel. “Always being in the shotgun, I never took a 3-step or 5-step drop. When I went to the Shrine game it was still a little bit shaky. My first step wasn’t very explosive and I wasn’t getting much depth, but getting with Travis helped a ton. He worked on my 3-step and 5-step drop and I think it looks pretty good now. I know that I still have a lot to work on, but it was a good day today.”

You didn’t have to be an NFL scout to see that Kiel has been working on his physique. That was obvious as soon as his shirt came off.

“Right after the season I weighed about 232.pounds,” Gunner said. “I still felt good, but I took this very seriously. Playing in the NFL is a big dream of mine so I did whatever I could. I bought into the diets and I bought into the workouts. I dropped 20 pounds and I weigh 211 now with eight percent body fat. So I feel really good.

“I’m hoping to get some private workouts to keep showcasing my ability and hope for the best.”

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The Tale of the Tooth

This is the tale of the tooth.

Or better yet, the whole truth about the tooth.

FullSizeRender

When UConn’s Amida Brimah caught Gary Clark with an elbow last Saturday in the AAC Tournament semifinals, he sent the Bearcats forward to the bench two minutes into the game with a tooth in his hand.

“As soon as it happened I thought, ‘Crap. I should have been wearing my mouthpiece,’” said Clark.

“I didn’t know what happened,” said assistant coach Darren Savino. “He comes over to the bench and he’s got a grimace on his face and then he handed me a tooth.”

“He had his hand out thinking it was a mouthpiece I guess,” said Clark. “I’m sure he was shocked when he realized it was my tooth. He turned and yelled, ‘It’s a tooth’ and (trainer) Robb (Williams) ran over and got me out.”

“I’m like, ‘What am I going to do with this guy’s tooth?’” said Savino. “So I go down to Robb and say, ‘Gary just gave me his tooth.’ He puts on his rubber gloves and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute – why are you putting on gloves? Give me something for my hands.’ So he comes and gives me sanitizer and the rest is history.”

The story, of course, didn’t end there. Clark went on to have one of the best games of his UC career finishing with 25 points and 9 rebounds.

Clark vs UConn in AAC tournament

“It tells you what kind of warrior Gary Clark is,” said Savino. “He spits his tooth out, stays on the court, and doesn’t bat an eyelash. He gets 25 and 9 with guys draped all over him fouling him on every possession.”

Did the elbow to the face motivate Gary?

“Just a little bit,” said Clark. “It just showed the physicality of the game and how teams are trying to play against us. I took one to the face last week and had a fat lip. It just comes with the game.”

“It says that I need to elbow him myself or upset him more often,” said Mick Cronin with a laugh. “He was upset. He went to the trainer and said, ‘Give me my mouthpiece.’ Nobody wants to listen to me but he got intentionally elbowed the week before and he had had enough.

“I’ve been telling him that you’ve got to play angry. In life you’ve got to be a great person, but when you get between those lines you’ve got to play angry. Hopefully he realized what he’s capable of. That’s the way I look at it.”

But there’s one more thing you should know.

Amida Brimah didn’t break Gary’s tooth. It had already been broken by Clark’s roommate Cane Broome in a preseason practice.

“We were playing two-on-two at practice,” said Broome. “I was guarding Kevin Johnson and he drove baseline and went up for a shot and I tried to block it. Gary was on my team and he tried to block it too. I fell backwards and my elbow hit him in the mouth. He said, ‘My tooth, my tooth.’ It was out.”

“He got like four stiches in his elbow,” said Clark. “He was the originator of it. I blame Cane.”

“It wasn’t funny, but after the fact we kind of laughed that Cane knocked somebody’s tooth out and he weighs 150 pounds,” said Savino.

So the tooth that was knocked out in Hartford was actually a replacement.

“He came to the bench and said, ‘Do I look ugly?’ Then he smiled,” said Broome.

“I got it fixed on Monday morning,” said Clark. “It was just a tad bit painful but I’m glad I’ve got my smile back.”

Unfortunately, Gary didn’t get the tooth back.

“My little brother said I should have saved it for the tooth fairy,” he said.

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Washington’s Impact Goes Beyond Stat Sheet

There are 21 columns on a typical college basketball stat sheet. Points, rebounds, shooting percentage, etc.

There’s no stat that measures enthusiasm, but if there were, NC State transfer Kyle Washington would be among the national leaders.

“You can’t really put a number on it, but the sprit and the passion and the fun that he has playing basketball is tremendous,” said Mick Cronin.

The Bearcats’ head coach says Washington’s zeal has had a huge impact on this year’s team since returning core players like Troy Caupain, Gary Clark, Kevin Johnson and Jacob Evans have even-keeled personalities.

“Kyle was just what they needed,” said Cronin. “He was an injection of talent, confidence, and energy every day. He’s beaten Duke, he’s beaten (North) Carolina, he’s had big games, he’s been to the Sweet 16. If I let him, he’d pull a Terry Nelson and predict that we’re going to win it all. But you’ve got to have a little of that. You’ve got to have some bravado.”

“I stay positive and always try to look at the glass as half-full,” said Washington. “Every time that somebody says that something isn’t possible, there’s always a way to get it done. That’s my mentality.”

And then there are his contributions on the court.

Kyle Washington, Juwan Durham

Washington earned Second Team All-Conference honors this season after averaging 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds. He’s 5th in the AAC in field goal percentage, 7th in blocked shots, and 10th in rebounding.

“The thing I love the most is that he can get you a basket when you really need a basket,” said Cronin. “In our comeback at Tulsa, he had two tough buckets in traffic and you’ve got to have answers when you’re in tough situations. You can go to him and get a basket.”

But even when his shots aren’t going in, Washington is giving his teammates a shot in the arm.

“He’s that big brother,” said Gary Clark. “He’s pulled that verbal side out of me to talk to guys at practice and off the court. His positive attitude has really pulled another side out of the Bearcats.”

“He is such a positive person that it’s almost like there can be no divisiveness with him around,” said Cronin. “He’s going to bring everybody together. It’s interesting because sometimes a guy like that is just a role player. This guy’s a scorer. But you can’t get mad at him for some of the shots that he takes because he’s such a good guy and the guys all love him so much.”

“I try to be there for my teammates,” said Washington. “If somebody needs a vocal guy to say, ‘Let’s get the energy up,’ I’ll do that. But I don’t want to say that I’m always doing that because sometimes I need it and a teammate will do it for me. That’s the beauty of this team.”

Coach Cronin says that Washington’s winning attitude comes from his parents Curtis and Tami.

“He’s just got tremendous character as a person, and if you could meet his parents you would understand why,” Mick said. “His parents are unbelievably great, great people and he’s really lucky.”

“I think my mom could have a movie one day,” Kyle told me. “She’s an amazing person. If you met her you would think she was raised in the most affluent area in the world and she wasn’t. The way she turned out as a person is beautiful. She’s a tenured teacher now and she’s on her way to get her doctorate. And my dad has always taught me to be competitive and always look at life with a glass half-full attitude. So I got it from both of them.”

In retrospect, maybe there is a stat that measures the impact of a team leader’s positive energy.

It’s called win total.

“I literally believe that that stuff is worth wins,” said Cronin.

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Broome Ball

When Bearcats fans get their first look at Cane Broome next year, many will be reminded of former UC star Nick Van Exel. Like “Nick the Quick,” Broome is a speedy lefty point guard with the ability to score in bunches.

“I’ve been coaching for more than 30 years now and coached some pretty good players at some pretty good programs and he is as fast of a player as I’ve ever coached,” said assistant coach Larry Davis. “It’s unbelievable how fast he is with the ball. He’ll be fun to watch. He’s like the wind – you can’t catch him.”

“There’s definitely a comparison to Nick with his ability to be quick and shifty with the ball,” said head coach Mick Cronin. “They are what I would call ‘escape artists.’ Speed is one thing if you’re a track star, but in basketball, it’s being an escape artist with the ball and an illusionist in terms of change of direction. It’s not just pure physical gifts. It’s also craftiness that goes into being an escape artist. He’s a true escape artist with the basketball.

“He’s really going to get Jarron Cumberland and Jacob Evans and guys like that a lot of open shots. Cane and Justin Jenifer together will have lightning speed. I’m looking forward to that.”

 

NCAA Basketball: Sacred Heart at Northwestern

The 6’0” Broome transferred to Cincinnati in April after spending his first two college seasons at Sacred Heart in Connecticut. Last season he was named the Northeast Conference Player of the Year after ranking seventh in the country in scoring at 23.1 points per game to go with 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

“I’m not the biggest guy, but if I get a couple of steps in front of you it’s going to be tough to stop me,” said Broome.

The 22-year-old is practicing with the Bearcats this season and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“He’s helped me on defense because being a bigger guard, it’s tough to guard smaller guys like that – especially ones that are really fast,” said senior Troy Caupain. “He challenges me every day at practice.”

“That’s the only time that I get to show the coaches what I can do,” said Broome. “I have to show them that I can play here. I haven’t proven anything yet. So practices are really my games.”

“It’s a tremendous advantage to have a guy practicing as talented as Cane,” said Cronin. “He is a basketball savant. Not only does it put a lot of pressure on our guys to defend him every day at practice, but he is constantly trying to help his teammates because he really understands basketball – probably better than any guard I’ve ever coached. He really understands the game at a high level.”

The Hartford, CT native is trying to use his redshirt season to address a couple of weaknesses beginning with his size and strength.

“Shoot, coming in here I was 147 pounds,” Cane told me with a laugh. “I just weighed myself and I’m 163 right now. The added weight has been helping me a lot. I can get bumped by anybody and it doesn’t really affect me anymore.

“I eat a lot but I think my metabolism is why it’s hard to put on weight. My dad was like this when he was my age – he sent me a picture. I sent it right to (strength coach) Mike (Rehfeldt) and said, ‘This is why I’m skinny.’ I get it from him.”

The other shortcoming Cane is working on is…

“Definitely defense,” said Broome. “I’ve learned that it’s more of a team thing. Before I thought you just had to sit down and guard people, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I’m trying to learn the system and the things you have to do to stay on the court – the things Coach Cronin cares about and the things he doesn’t care about.”

In his two seasons at Sacred Heart, the Pioneers were 27-35 (20-16 in the NEC). One of the biggest reasons that Broome elected to transfer to Cincinnati was the likelihood of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“It was torture because the tournament is what you grow up wanting to play in,” said Broome. “I loved Sacred Heart and it was good while I was there, but I was playing more for myself. When I saw the teams celebrating on Selection Sunday, it was like they all had a hand in that moment. So I wanted to be part of a team that could get there.”

Even though he won’t suit up for the Bearcats in this year’s tournament, Broome is already a big part of the team.

“Cane Broome is a comedian,” said junior Gary Clark. “He is one different character. We’re so much alike in some ways and so different in others. He’s a great guy to be around and everybody loves him. He’s that one guy that’s cool with everyone.”

“I don’t have any family members here, so my teammates became my close friends and family,” said Broome. “At the home games I try to support them and on the road games I try to watch and learn something.”

I asked Broome is there’s anybody in particular that he’s closest to.

“We’re all really close, but Gary is my roommate,” he said.

A mostly-good roommate according to the UC forward.

“I’m still trying to get him to take the trash out, but we’re getting there,” said Clark.

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Another Kick To The Gut

In their first losing season in six years, one thing that has frequently gone right for the Bengals are kicks.

As in frequently wide right.

texans-celebrate-bullock-miss

Given a chance to beat his hometown Houston Texans on Christmas Eve – the team that drafted and then waived him three games into last season – Randy Bullock pushed a 43 yard field goal attempt as time expired allowing Houston to beat Cincinnati 12-10.

“That was exactly what I wanted,” said Bullock. “Unfortunately, I had the opportunity and I just didn’t take advantage of it. That hurts for me and this team. It was incredibly disappointing.

“I felt like I hit it pretty well. The timing felt off a little bit. I jumped a little bit. We were trying to hold it – unfortunately it affected the kick. That’s on me.”

It was the latest frustrating finish in a season filled with them. Facing the NFL’s top-ranked defense in yards allowed, the Bengals were able to drive from their own 15-yard line to the Houston 25 in the final 3:46, leaving five seconds on the clock to attempt a game-winning field goal. Up to that point, Bullock had made all six of his kicks for Cincinnati (3 FG, 3 PAT) since replacing Mike Nugent two weeks ago.

“I thought we were going to win the game,” said defensive end Wallace Gilberry. “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.”

“The offense put us in position to win the game and we didn’t make the play there,” said Marvin Lewis. “I feel bad for Randy.”

“He’s been doing a good job the last few weeks since he’s been here,” said cornerback Josh Shaw. “He happened to miss it. It happens. It’s football. We’ve got his back and I’m sure that next time around he’ll make it.”

It seems like a distant memory, but the Bengals opened the season with a fourth quarter comeback, beating the New York Jets 23-22 on a 47-yard field goal by Nugent with :54 seconds remaining. Since then they’ve blown fourth quarter leads to the Broncos, Redskins, Giants, Steelers, and Texans.

“This is probably the sixth or seventh game that we lost by seven points or less,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “Next season we’ve got to find a way to turn those losses into wins. That’s the difference between going to the dance or sitting at home and watching everybody else dance.”

“Last year when I was a rookie we started off 8-0,” said Shaw. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is what the league is all about.’ I was kind of spoiled last year. But we’ll regroup. This is a good team and we’ve got good coaches. It’s a good organization overall. We have been to the playoffs the last five years before this year and we’ll bounce back.”

Unfortunately, the bounces – and the kicks – haven’t gone their way in 2016.

“I wanted to make that kick regardless of the game scenario or anything like that,” said Bullock. “I have to shake it off and go forward and finish up the season strong against Baltimore.”

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